Monday, November 13, 2006

The Iraq Symposium

The Belmont Club has a useful "shorthand" description of the positions taken by the different contributors to TNI's Iraq symposium.

For Franks, the problem is one of expectations: "In Iraq, has too much emphasis been placed on achievement of secondary objectives or preferences as the benchmark for victory? After all, the primary objective—the removal of a hostile regime—has been achieved." ...

For Steven Biddle the problem was that America got switcherooed. It came in to fight terrorists and did a good job on the targets it expected to find. Then somewhere along the line the mission changed to making a multiethnic Iraq work. ...

John Owen IV defines victory as establishing a stable successor state that does not seek nuclear weapons — and can serve as a counterweight to Iran. ...

Daniel Pipes thinks that the concept of victory in Iraq was pitched too high. American rule should have begun with an American puppet and then civility should have been slowly ground into the Iraqis. ...

Gary Rosen argues that civility should be forced on the fractious Iraqis, if necessary, at the point of an M-16. ...

Dov S. Zakheim thinks the important thing is to leave Iraq in one piece, with integral borders. Anything else would be a plus. If it takes accepting a strongman, then so be it.

[NOTE: The Belmont Club summary contained a description of Peter Choharis' contribution as well but is not summarized here as it does not appear to be an accurate account of what Peter actually said. TWR readers can go to the BC site to see what was written and Peter's response.]

I think that this all silly.
US has to continue the tiger - but events will spiral out of US control.

Of course, hiring a half million US soldiers and deploying them to Iraq will resolve all thses issues.

But US is not willing to pay that price.
Cost is the issue, isn't it? US loves no cost solutions.
Yeah, like the cost of alienating all of our allies on the way into Iraq!

In reference to your November 10 article in NIo: what a disappointment (what I really want to say is, “what a load of crap”). Disappointing, because I turn regularly to TWR and NI for my daily dose of realism. However, I’m not sure if it’s some personal enmity or some overall sour grapes left over from the recent election, but “Democrats, Irrelevant” seriously undermines your credibility as an objective journalist.

This isn’t to say that your most basic premise is incorrect: a serious foreign policy debate is lacking and was absent from the midterm elections. But COME ON! Hanging this on the Dems and Dean without any kind of objective and unbiased comparison to the kind of movement politics the GOP ran on in the last several elections is, well, disingenuous of you at best. And highly UN-realistic if you really expected the kind of debate (Kosovo?) you describe.

The GOP had dragged politics to a new low. Give the Dems some credit for running solid campaigns that were NOT just about Iraq, but also about new approaches to a lot of fundamental economic, environmental and important local issues. Even I have to be impressed that as much as the GOP tried to drag it all down, many (not all) Dems gained support with moderate, populist messages that are as if not more important than strategies for Iraq.

What the hell did Rove have to offer?

Seriously. If you really believe statements like “[there is] an unwillingness to offer dissenting viewpoints or alternative options because one presumes that the “majority opinion” is based on superior information or analysis” – well, come on, Nick. You really think that this (midterm!) election was such a letdown “by the standards of past U.S. elections” in terms of the level of debate? Maybe I was asleep when C-Span ran coverage of all those astute debates. And do you really think it was that much worse than the 2005 ballot in Germany? Not sure which campaign you were watching.

You’ve got to give some credit where credit is due. Or simply drop it. But you’re losing credibility by running such a piece, and that disappoints me. We need more clear, critical thinkers. Not whiners!
All of these opinions are coming too late to have any effect on the course of events in Iraq. The only new idea is that neighboring countries might play a stabilizing role. But this will not be easy. Turkey and the Sunni Arab states have no interest in stabilizing an Iraq in which Kurds are all but independent and Sunni Arabs no longer run the place, and the cooperation of Iran will require allowing Tehran to continue its nuclear program unimpeded.

What we really need is a symposium to explore the aftermath of an American withdrawal, focused on longer-term relations with the Middle East and the future of anti-American terrorism. But the time for debating the long run may have to wait until the situation in Iraq finally resolves itself.
David Billington:

It will be at least 2 decades for the situation in Iraq to resolve itself.
Was General Franks even aware of a second objective after the primary one? His war-planning indicates not.

I hope you guys didn't pay for his lunch.
Anonymous 10:26,

Yes, Iraq itself may be unstable for a long time. But I think planning for the situation that follows our departure will be both necessary and easier once we begin to draw down our troops.

Perhaps it is US policy (regarding when and how we depart) that needs to be resolved. Present trends in Iraq point to our making a decision in a matter of months.
US does not have the capability of planning and executing any significant course of action in Iraq past her departure.

The future of Iraq is now truly in the hands of the peoples of Iraq.

Sorry if I was unclear. I was referring to my first post above, in which I meant the larger situation in the Middle East and world following our departure from Iraq. I don't think it is too soon to begin planning for the impact of our departure on our relations with the wider region and the world.

Sorry if I was unclear. By situation I meant the reference in my first post above to the larger situation in the Middle East and world following our departure from Iraq. I don't think it is too soon to begin planning for the impact of our departure on our relations with the wider region and the world.
David Billington:


I know that US is trying to put in place the structure of deterrence against Iran (not sure how successful that will be)

In the Levant I am not sure that US can do anything but wait and see - until Israelis, Palestinians, and others are exhausted and ready for settlement.

Jordan is a small country that has no place to go except SA and US.

For the Arab Governments of Persian Gulf it would be business as usual - they pump oil & gas and US will protect them against external enemies.

Really, it is only Turkey that has to be managed and even then where is Turkey going to go: EU?. Russia?

I do not think that USG situation vis a vis other regional governments has changed all that much.

It is true that the regional governments do not trust US intentions and the next USG has to ameliorate that.

The populations; on the other hand, is a different story!
Sorry I haven't responded to this thread sooner.

I would point out that my comments on the Democrats were not election day sour grapes but something I've been saying in National Interest online and on this blog for months.

I recognize that winning elections is different than framing policy, and that there are a wide variety of considerations. But I stand by my assessment that the Democrats do not offer a coherent vision. Germany's elections may be boring but when voters last year cast ballots for Schroeder or for Merkel they knew without a shadow of a doubt where their respective parties stood on key issues like relations with the U.S., with Russia, on Turkish accession to the EU, etc. When Ukrainians cast ballots earlier this year, no one who voted for Tymoshenko, say, expected her to suddenly turn around and endorse the "Common Economic Space" with Russia.

Democrats won largely because they ran against the Bush legacy rather than offering a comprehensive vision, and I think we are going to see a lot less change in U.S. policy than we were led to expect.
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